Major security sweep sees South African airport staff arrested and fired for stealing

OR Tambo International Airport says it has scored early successes in its peak season security operations designed to detect and disrupt criminal activity as the holidays kick off.

So far 10 people have been dismissed, 10 people have been arrested and attempts to smuggle items from the airside have been foiled, it said.

The airport anticipates that more than 3.6 million passengers will fly in and out during December and January. The Friday before Christmas and the first Friday in January are expected to have high passenger volumes.

“Security has been ramped up with additional members being provided by the South African Police Service and licensed security contractors. Among the measures being taken are random stop and search operations of people working in and around the airport. Other measures include additional staff to monitor several hundred CCTV cameras in real time,” the group said.

Staff with permits to work on the airside are not only subject to random stop and searches but are also subject to intensified searches at access points, both entering and leaving access-controlled areas.

Baggage wagons and other vehicles being used at airside are being randomly stopped with drivers subject to questioning and inspections carried out.

The intensified security operations have yielded early successes including arrests and revocation of permits to work at the airport.

Successes recorded so far include:

  • Apprehension of 10 security officers from a contracted security company in possession of stolen items including alcohol and juices. Their staff permits were confiscated, the individuals were suspended and have now been dismissed;
  • Arrests of 10 people for contravening the Civil Aviation Act and for trespassing;
  • Alcohol wrapped in blankets and thrown over a fence was handed to the SAPS for further investigation;
  • Damaged fencing was identified in an area where alcohol wrapped in blankets was found during perimeter inspections and has been repaired;
  • Officers of a licensed security contractor apprehended two foreign nationals in toilets who were found with fraudulent passports. They were handed over to SAPS and a case opened;
  • Officers of a licensed security contractor apprehended a foreign national trying to enter South Africa illegally. He was arrested and handed to the SAPS;
  • Workers for two contractors were found removing items from an airside rubbish dump, arrested and handed to the SAPS; and
  • A security officer employed by an international airline was found with 47 bottles of liquor miniatures on his person when stopped and searched. He was arrested and has appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrates Court.

Betty Maloka, Senior Manager: Corporate Affairs at the airport, says management is determined to maintain the safety and security of passengers and airport visitors.

“This is Africa’s largest airport and South Africa’s premier point of entry. We are very much aware of our responsibility to provide not only a safe environment but also to enhance South Africa’s reputation among visitors,” she said.

“We are particularly grateful for the additional members provided by the SAPS at this busy time when resources are stretched. Our partners among the airlines, ground handling companies, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders are also collaborating extensively with airport management to ensure a successful holiday season,” said Maloka.

Staff responsible for key airport systems such as baggage handling have completed maintenance operations and replaced parts where necessary. Suppliers and service providers for these systems also have staff on standby during the holiday season.

As a licencing requirement of the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) all agencies and contractors involved in security recently conducted an emergency drill to ensure continuing preparedness for emergencies.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we are well placed to mitigate security risks and maintain technical, engineering and IT systems to prevent unnecessary delays.”

Read: A look at British Airways’ new first-class lounge at OR Tambo International airport

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Major security sweep sees South African airport staff arrested and fired for stealing